Spot Plays for 2023 British Champions Day
Soaking rains throughout England this week have unfortunately put a slight damper on Saturday's British Champions Day at Ascot, resulting in some stars bypassing the event, with more possibly to come. Soft-to-heavy conditions are prevalent on the straight course, while the three events scheduled beyond one mile have all been transferred to the (slightly drier) inner course, which is typically used for the jumpers.
There are five Group events on the card, and I'll take a swing at four of them.
Race 1: British Champions Long Distance Cup (G2), 8:15 a.m. ET
This is being billed as a showdown between Kyprios, the outstanding stayer of 2022 who is on the comeback trail after being out of action for nearly a year, and Trueshan, who is seeking his fourth consecutive success in this two-mile event. Neither will offer much value, though.
Kyprios should come on from his second-place finish in the Irish St Leger (G1) and thrive in the conditions, but will he really be back to his very best as perhaps the shortest-priced favorite on the card? Trueshan has bounced back in his last couple after starting the season off a bit slow, but his Doncaster Cup (G2) success was rather quirky, and his win in the Prix du Cadran (G1) was against a sub-standard field.
Lurking in the wings is the progressive #5 Sweet William (10-1), second in the lucrative Ebor H. at York two back and a strong second to Trueshan in the Doncaster Cup in his step up to pattern company. Sweet William has finished first or second in all eight starts to date for John Gosden, and handled bottomless ground rather well at the Goodwood Festival over the summer. He still has some form to find against the top pair, but he's worth a long look at the current price.
Race 3: British Champions Fillies and Mares (G1), 9:25 a.m. ET
The inner course doesn't figure to be as saturated as the round course would have been for this 1 1/2-mile fixture, but it might still be the kind of ground French raider #11 Rue Boissonade (10-1) will appreciate.
A maiden breaker over extremely heavy ground at Saint-Cloud in April, Rue Boissonade went on to capture the Prix de Malleret (G2) at Longchamp in July. The form and field was no great shakes, but the three-year-old was hardly embarrassed in the Prix Vermeille (G1) when 2 1/4 lengths fourth to Breeders' Cup-bound Warm Heart, nor when occupying the same slot in the Prix de Royallieu (G1).
Rue Boissonade did not get the best of trips in the latter, having to put on the brakes when behind a wall of rivals in upper stretch and then making progress only after she found a seam to cut through. Although she doesn't possess a great turn of foot, she might outrun expectations if this turns into more of a test of stamina. Worth considering at these odds.
Race 4: Queen Elizabeth II (G1), 10:05 a.m. ET
She's not guaranteed to start, given the course conditions, but the three-year-old filly #11 Tahiyra (4-1) seemingly has what it takes to win this, even if connections reluctantly stand their ground. The once-beaten star oozes class and talent, even though she hasn't yet taken on males.
A course-and-distance winner of the Coronation (G1) in June, Tahiyra can probably cope with this footing as the ground at the Curragh, when she captured the Moyglare Stud (G1) 13 months ago in what was seemingly more testing than officially described. From a wagering standpoint, she's clearly a likeable alternative to Paddington, if she goes.
Race 5: Champion (G1), 10:45 a.m. ET
Obviously a lot of quality talent in this 10-furlong event, and it's unfortunate the result could be dictated to an extent by the ground. Bettors have gravitated toward #7 Horizon Dore (5-2) this week, on account of the conditions, and I won't disagree.
Unable to compete in some more prestigious prizes until now due to the fact he is a gelding, the French three-year-old undoubtedly deserves this step up in grade having won six of eight, including three Group races in a row. Although he hasn't faced a field of this stature before, the soft footing and his strong late kick are things I expect he can successfully reproduce at this level.